Word of Mouth …
… Kyma (69 West St., Annapolis; 410-268-0003), the Annapolis townhouse restaurant designed by Adamstein and Demetriou and with a long roster of meze and tapas making up its menu, was an interesting, likeable spot when it opened, a place that came on like a trendy pretender and flirted with pretension but always had the good sense to temper its worst instincts. The cooking was never superlative but always solid and occasionally delicious, distinguished above all by great shopping — good breads, fresh and fruity olive oils, excellent cheeses.
My five visits over the course of the restaurant's first year had taught me not to expect either the consistency or the casual brilliance of Jaleo and Zaytinya, the benchmarks for tapas and meze in the area. But the flavors were almost always bright and zippy, and I never had a meal there I didn't enjoy.
The founding chef, Jose Picazo (ex-Jaleo) is gone now, replaced by Aaron Williams, and a recent drop-by revealed a kitchen gone south. Part of that has to do with mediocre shopping, and that's a shame; but part of that also has to do with a curious misunderstanding of what tapas and meze are. They're not, for instance, big plates made small. The chef who would try his hand at tapas and meze must be a dazzling miniaturist; instead, in dish after dish, I felt I was eating at the margins of a large canvas. Precision counts; clarity counts. If you're prone to sloppiness, maybe it's better to just stick to a meat-and-two entree.
I could go on with a recounting of the dozen or so dishes my friends and I tried, but it'd only feel like piling it on. Instead, let me just say that we left most of them uneaten, headed back to the car and drove over to Chick and Ruth's Delly (165 Main St., Annapolis; 410-269-6737), where we ended the night with egg salad sandwiches, waffles and ice cream sundaes. Nothing like a nightcap at Chick and Ruth's to restore your sense of equilibrium and happiness. …
… Stefano Frigerio's ambition is considerable; the Mio (1110 Vermont Ave., NW; 202-955-0075) chef, the third in less than a year, wants to show that he's capable of dazzling diners every plate out with intricate arrangements and unexpected combinations of ingredients — to show, in other words, that he's earned the right to run the show. Sometimes, as with a duo of hamachi with a cup of lemon sorbet, he gets cutesy; sometimes, he exhibits a weakness for odd flourishes, like edible flowers in a dish that hardly needs the embellishment. And he'd do well to understand that Mio is not Maestro, that he's no longer tasked with turning out elaborate, prix fixe tasting menus in which each course is judiciously (some might say preciously) portioned. I'm not one to say that size matters, but a plate of venison with only three slices of meat on it? That's an insult.
But I also see flashes of a big-time talent. Swordfish, all but snubbed by high-end chefs these days, not only turns up on his menu, but it turns up rare — when has it ever been left pink in the center? Rounding out the dish: a lightly sweet carrot-lemongrass puree and a few sprigs of fragrant microgreens that neatly play off the saltiness of the fish and the saltiness of the fish's crust. A quiet knockout.
The fried catfish, with a mound of vinegared slaw, would put a Southern roadhouse to shame (such crunch!), while the wine-braised beef cheeks, which are almost as rich and unctuous as the potato puree they're served on, could make a Yankee pot roast jealous. A parmesan soup is remarkable for what it's not: it's not heavy, it's not even cheesy; it's topped off with a parmesan foam that accentuates the lightness of the broth; a handful of elegantly fashioned gnocchi, as light as you could hope for, bob in the liquid. As for that ballotine of foie gras — it's surely one of the most sinful and satisfying things you can find on an area menu at the moment. Forget the edible flowers — forget, even, the sweet corn toasts: instead, focus on the intensity and mouth-coating creaminess of the foie gras, which needs only its modest accent of coarse salt and a quick swipe through its drizzle of huckleberry sauce. …
Didn't get your question in this week? Submit it early to next week's Kliman Online, Tuesday, February 19 at 11 AM.
Whew. I mean, even good airline food is still airline food, oversalted and a little mushy all around.
But I like the thought that goes into the meals on British Airways — for instance, serving a chicken curry (curry is always a smart choice for reheating, which is why Indian buffet is more rewarding than other buffets) instead of a chicken breast. That kind of thing.
I also like that they give you wine with every meal, with no upcharge.
British Airways does a great job all around, I think, and not just with food and drink. The musical selections are terrific — Ella Fitzgerald AND Prince — and generally of good quality, there are a lot of choices of movies to pick from, and the staff just seems … I don't know — more civilized than most.
And no, it's not the British accents.
I can tell you that the place is cozy and relaxed, and that, yes, the wines do gravitate to Napa.
Worth a trip? Depends on just how important good food is to you. For some, I suspect, the pretty plates, the good service, the California-centric wine list, and a nice setting will probably be enough.
There's lots of places to pick from, Fairfax: Central, Cafe du Parc, Poste, Ceiba. The list is long. All of the aforementioned are festive, pulsing spots, and the desserts won't set you back too badly.
Enjoy yourselves, and check back in with us to let us know which you picked …
Now, can I gripe for a second? Poor? Most college students aren't poor. I used to hear that a lot when I was in college, and I hear it now, too. Poverty? Really? Lacking any chance of upward mobility, lacking all prospects — that gets a lot closer to the meaning of poor.)
I enjoy the place, too.
And I agree with you, DC — I think it's wonderful to see such a reasonably priced spot in the heart of downtown serving real, homecooked food. Very unusual. And very deserving of our support.
Though the place I pine for, as loyal readers of this chat know, is the recently shuttered Pyramid. THAT'S a bistilla to moon over.
Yeah, there is. Right here.
I keep telling you all: I love it when you come back each week with reports from the field, I think it energizes this chat — I know it energizes me.
This forum can and should be about more than just me weighing in on the spots I like each and every week, more than a vehicle for people to come on and complain about service. I mean, you're all out and about and eating — so, come on, tell us: where you've been, what's been good, what's not been good, what surprised you, what disappointed you, etc., etc.
Nothing I'd like more than coming across a report that's got some balance and some interesting observations about the food, the atmosphere, the mission of a place, etc.
Easy: Citronelle or CityZen. Take your pick.
Although I've gotta say: Neither is quite as dinner-as-theater, as food as food porn, as Minibar.
Oh, well. Next time.
And meanwhile, I'd be curious what your total foodie friend — and you too, of course — think of Citronelle or CityZen.
Best, probably, to contact me via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Give the Eggs Benedict at Vermilion, in Old Town, a try.
I'm not a brunch man, as I said in my review of the place several months back, but I have a real soft spot for this one. I think Tony Chittum's doing a damn fine job over there.
Did well? I'd say — it landed in the Top 20!
I agree with you, of course. Couldn't agree more. I think it's, right now, the most underappreciated restaurant in the city.
See? Now we're talking — detailed, balanced, thorough and informative.
Although you're wrong, wrong, wrong about the swordfish. : )
Thanks for the report, DC. If you're willing to take the time to organize your thoughts and post something as well-written and interesting as this — and that goes for all of you out there in chatland, too — then I'll gladly post them each and every week in this space.
Happy to. Thrilled to.
Absolutely. But they're not going to dinner; they're going for dessert.
The chatter wanted a "nice" restaurant, I gave them some nice restaurants.
Easy. The choucroute!
And happy birthday, Germantown! I'm with you: nothing, really, like good French country cooking to put you in a good mood.
As a matter of fact, DTTOB, I was just talking with a source yesterday who confirmed that, yes, Emeril will be coming to DC to open a place, joining the now-legion of celebrity chefs (Laurent Tourondel, Wolfgang Puck, Eric Ripert, Gordon Ramsay) pouring into the area.
The restaurant, I am told, will be located in Foggy Bottom, and will be called "Bam!"
(Sorry. Couldn't resist.)
Give Cafe Divan, in Georgetown, a try.
It's a much more mod setting, and the food is Turkish, not merely (generically) Mediterranean. (By the way, Zaytinya doesn't claim to be serving Turkish food. Or Lebanese food. Or Greek food. What it's serving, really, are those flavors, which it interprets its own way.)
Look for the excellent lentil soup, the sigara borek (crispy fried pastry "cigars" filled with parsley and sharp feta), and the iskender kebab, which takes the doner kebab (spit-roasted lamb and veal) and layers it with tomatoes, toasted pita and yogurt.
If memory serves — and sometimes it doesn't serve; sometimes it neglects, sometimes it completely ignores — I'd try either PS 7's or BLT Steak.
Both have, not just good, well-stocked bars, but also knowledgeable bartenders, which I think is just as mportant if you're looking to taste and explore.
I'm going to sound predictable and unimaginative, perhaps, for coming back to the names Citronelle and CityZen, but they really are worth it, and especially given your interest in fine dining.
The other place to add to your list is Palena, which, while not quite at the level of those two, is deeply rewarding, one of the best restaurants in the region.
I've had generally good experiences at Domku, so I'm surprised to read this. What you describe doesn't sound, exactly, like an off night. But it also doesn't describe the food I've had here. Hm.
As for other spots for Eastern European food in the city? Well, I don't know what I can tell you. Actually, that's not true. I do know what I can tell you: There aren't any.
DC's just not a city of white ethnicities, of Poles and Italians and Irish, the way a lot of East Coast cities are.
But, on the bright side: Baltimore's not too far a drive.
In charge of the kitchen? Yes.
Actually, in the kitchen? No.
Hey, I like the place, too.
You're right: it's dependable and fast and friendly. There are a lot of places like that, places I like and go to again and again that don't make any of our big package issues. Doesn't mean they're not good.
I happen to think that, for the purposes of compiling our list, there are other restaurants out there that are bigger bargains, that are more interesting and delicious and more rewarding up and down the line.
But as I said, I think Rio Grande does a good job.
Anyway, enough typing; time to resume eating. That's all for this week, folks — I'm off to lunch.
Eat well, be well, and let's do it again next week at 11 …